Key Player Worries About Mideast Drive to Build Ties With Israel


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AMMAN, JORDAN - U.S. officials say Washington would like to see more Arab and Muslim countries follow the United Arab Emirates' lead in normalizing relations with Israel. It looks to Oman, Bahrain and Sudan as possible candidates. But Israel's peace partner and staunch Palestinian supporter, Jordan, worries that the Israel-UAE deal will scuttle the two-state solution and it could possibly be one of the biggest losers, if the land-for-peace option is abandoned.

Jordanian analyst Osama Al Sharif, writing on the Al-Monitor website, says Jordan's longstanding political approach to resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict could become "a minority position."

Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia stands with Jordan and upholds the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative put forward to Israel. It calls for normalized ties in exchange for Israel's full withdrawal from occupied lands, a just settlement for Palestinian refugees and a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Al Sharif and analyst Labib Kamhawi warn that peace deals without the Palestinians won't resolve the 72-year-old conflict.

"If this doesn't come out of conviction in the importance of peace that is based on justice, it will wind up a very marginal and symbolic normalization like the Egyptian and Jordanian people feel about the Israelis and Israel," said Kamhawi. "It will simply put a crisis on hold, and it won't eliminate it."

The UAE says it still wants a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Gulf Arab nations have increased commercial relations with Israel in recent years and share concerns over Iran.

U.S. officials say Washington would like to see more Gulf nations normalize relations with Israel. "We don't need to make the sales pitch. Everyone sees the benefits", a senior State Department official said during Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's recent visit to Bahrain.

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi said the UAE-Israel peace deal should prod Israel to accept a Palestinian state. He warned if this didn't happen, it "would only deepen the decades long Arab-Israeli conflict and threaten the security of the region as a whole."

A key U.S. regional ally, Jordan hosts the largest number of Palestinian refugees numbering two million.

"Jordan has a lot at stake, and it stands to lose a lot of its internal security and peace of mind. The majority of Jordanians are of Palestinian origin and these look at the sanctity of the Palestine issue as being something to be adhered to and respected by all," Kamhawi said.

Still, Jordanian analyst Amer Sabaileh says Jordan's 1994 "peace treaty with Israel benefits both sides, especially in the security area and neither side will risk damaging bilateral ties."

Jordan's former foreign minister, Marwan Muasher, said even if other Gulf states follow the UAE's lead, the root issue remains.

"In the end it's not the Gulf states who are living under occupation, it's the Palestinians. And until you reach a solution with the Palestinians, it does not matter how many peace deals you make with Arab states," he told Reuters.